But he (the Lord) said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” …For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12:9-10 (NIV).
We are all weak. Weaknesses can be: physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual. A weakness or ‘thorn’ as Paul called it is not a sin or a vice or a character that you can change. It may be a physical limitation, like a handicap, a chronic illness, naturally low energy, or a disability. It may be an emotional limitation, such as a trauma scar, hurtful memory, a personality peculiarity or a hereditary disposition. In addition, there may be innumerable uncontrolled circumstances that weakness us such as financial and relational limitations.
Four thousand years ago, a victim of personal, family and financial reversals looked to the silent heavens and pleaded, “Show me why you contend with me. Does it seem good to you that you should oppress, that you should despise the work of your hands?” (Job 10:2-3, NIV). The questions are still being asked all over the world, “Does God hate me? Is this why He has given me weaknesses? Why me and not others?”
The bible is filled with examples of how God loves to use us to do extraordinary things in spite of our weaknesses. That God uses imperfect people is in itself encouraging news for all of us. Moses had two weaknesses – one physical (Speech impediment) (Exodus 4:11, NIV). and another behavioural (temper). In spite of his temper, God transformed Moses into “humblest man on earth.
Gideon’s weakness was low self-esteem and deep insecurity. But God transformed him into a “mighty man of valour.” The adulterer and murderer King David became, “a man after my own heart.” Impulsive and weak-willed Peter became “a rock.” The list could go on and on. It could take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Barak, Samson, Jephthah David, Samuel and all the other prophets… their weakness was turned to strength.” (Hebrews 11: 32-34).
God wants to use us if we allow Him to work through our weakness. He transformed Paul into a greatest missionary the world has ever seen. For that to happen, let us follow Paul as the classic model. What do we learn from him in relation to our weakness?
Admit your weakness
Usually we deny our weaknesses, defend them, excuse them, hide them and resent them. This prevents God from using them the way He desires. Own up to your imperfections. Be honest about yourself and admit your weaknesses. God is drawn to people who are weak and admit that they are weak.
Two great confessions in the New Testament illustrate what we need for a healthy living. The first was Peter’s who said to Jesus, “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Math 16:16, NIV). The second confession was Paul’s who said; “we are only human beings like you” when the crowd at Lystra wanted to worship them, (Acts 14:15). If you want God to use you, you must know who God is and know who you are. Many Christians tend to forget the truth: We are only humans!
Be content with your weakness
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor 12:9b, NIV). At first this does not make sense, We want to be freed from our weaknesses, not be content with them. But contentment is an expression of faith in the goodness of God. It only says, “God, I believe you love me and you know what is best for me.” Paul gives us several reasons to be content with our inborn weaknesses. First, they cause us to depend on God. Paul said, “I delight in weaknesses, in insult, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10, NIV). Whenever you feel weak, God is reminding you to depend on him.
Our weaknesses also prevent arrogance. They keep us humble. “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me, (2 Cor 12:7 NIV). A limitation can act as a speed governor to keep us from going too fast and running ahead of God. Our limitations show how much we need each other. They encourage fellowship among believers. Most of all, our weaknesses increase our capacity for sympathy and ministry. We are far more likely to be compassionate and considerate of the weaknesses of others. God wants you to have a Christ like ministry on earth. That means other people are going to find healing in your wounds.
Honestly share your weakness
When you share your weaknesses with others, you become more vulnerable. Vulnerability is risky. But ministry begins with vulnerability. The more you take off your mask, and share your struggles, the more God will be able to use you in serving others. Vulnerability can lower your defences and open up your life to others. When you reveal your failures, feelings, and fears, you risk the chance of rejection. But the benefits are worth the risk. Vulnerability is emotionally liberating. Opening up relieves stress, defuses your fears, and becomes the first step to freedom.
Paul modelled vulnerability in all his letter. He openly shared: His failures – For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing (Rom 7:19 NIV). His feelings – We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you, (2 Cor 6:11 NIV). His frustrations – We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life, (2 Cor 1:8 NIV). His fears – I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling, (1 Cor 2:3 NIV).
Vulnerability is an endearing quality; we are naturally drawn to humble people. When people see God using you in spite of your weaknesses, it encourages them to think, “May be God can use me also! Our strengths create competition, but our weaknesses create community.
Glory in your weakness
David, Israel’s greatest king acknowledges the advantage of his weakness. “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees, (Psa 119:71 NIV).” Paul said, “I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses, (2 Cor. 12:5, NIV)”. Instead of posing as self-confident and invincible, see yourself as a trophy of grace. When Satan points out your weaknesses, agree with him and fill your heart with praise for Jesus who “understands every weakness of ours”. Also praise the Holy Spirit, who, “helps us in our weakness.”
Copyright © Feb 2007. D. Dale
Author: Dr. D. Dale is a retired professor in Research-coordination, & faculty of Agriculture, Kerala Agricultural University